“These songs are sooooo boring! Why can’t my child play more popular songs that we know?”
We hear this a lot, and we get it! When we decide to start studying an instrument, we imagine ourselves (or our children) playing our favorite pieces—things we grew up hearing or things we hear on the radio today.
“Why can’t music instructors just teach the fun songs?” We do teach the fun songs! But here’s the thing: music skills build on each other, a bit like math skills. Most would agree that it’s nearly impossible to teach division to a child who hasn’t mastered addition and subtraction. Music works similarly: we learn how to read and play music in an ordered way because the skills needed to play the fun stuff build on each other.
“But why can’t you just show him how to play it?”
That one’s easy. If we just showed students how to play things instead of teaching them how music works and how to read, it wouldn’t be music education at all. That is the equivalent of sending your child to an art class only to find out later that all they did was paint by numbers. Sure, you can teach some artistry and technique by rote or by having a student mimic the teacher, but “learning” whole pieces that way doesn’t help bring students closer to being proficient musicians.
“Can’t my child just learn some easy songs that he knows?”
Of course, but we don’t want to limit musical study to pieces that a student is already familiar with; doing so gives the student no incentive to learn to read music. A lot of people can “figure out” a piece if they’re given a bit of a head start. If we teach only pieces that students are familiar with, they tend to hunt and peck for the note that sounds right rather than make the effort to read what’s written in front of them. In fact, when teaching a brand-new song, many students have more mistakes on their second time through because they’re trying to remember what the piece sounds like instead of reading what’s on the page.
“So, will my child ever play the songs we’ve been dreaming of?”
Yes! And if they practice regularly and carefully, that day will come much quicker! Teachers are also much more willing to let a student attempt more ambitious music if that student has proven good practice habits.